The Good Thing About Indoor Plumbing Is The Same As The Bad Thing About Indoor Plumbing

The great thing about indoor plumbing is that it's indoors. The bad thing is that it's indoors.

At one point when I was looking up dew points for all of April, May and June I thought about it and just shook my head: Why does plumbing even need to be indoors? And, Who thought it was smart to put a toilet above a place where you prepare food?

Now if you're like me, you want answers. Why, for example, did the toilet waste line leak? Some might not care. But I was interested in avoiding further waste line disruptions, so I wanted to be prepared for the next time.

It could have been that we had upset the balance of things at Kawama. Maybe superstitions were real.

Or it could have been that I hammered away furiously at the extra lead from the waste line sticking up out of the floor so I could put in the new flange when I put in the toilet, peeling the old lead away and perhaps — perhaps (but not definitely!) — fucked up the waste line and caused it to leak.

Or — here was another idea — the lead waste line was an original, or at least an old, feature of the house and since lead is soft, over time, as the house settled, the lead line bent and broke. And since the waste line was angled down, the water collected in the line and then the pipes condensed when the dew point rose above 55 degrees, which accounted for the leaking.

I tried asking one of the guys who came to put in the new line about my theory and he kind of shrugged. Then I asked him if I put in the wax ring correctly on the toilet and he confirmed that I did. Small victories.

Anyway, it was fixed, so that was that. I could move on.

Kawama, Astoria, Queens

One thing they did that was odd — or at least I thought it was odd — was that when they needed a piece of cardboard to use as a bed for the cement around the toilet where they poked through the floor to install the new waste line, they just grabbed a pizza box out of the recycling. I mean, I guess it was clean:

Kawama, Astoria, Queens

So one lesson I took away from all this is that I now know why the previous owners added drop ceilings:

Kawama, Astoria, Queens

I guess waste lines poop out over the years and fuck up the ceilings.

It occurred to me that there were drop ceilings all around the house. Or more specifically, there were drop ceilings where plumbing was concerned: the kitchen, the bathroom, our bedroom (it being under the kitchen on the third floor). It's a lesson worth remembering: If you see drop ceilings, ask what's under those tiles. So yeah. That.

Cleaning up afterward, I had to retile the bathroom floor around the toilet, clear out the debris that fell (or at least as much as I could), and fix the ceiling tiles in the kitchen. While fixing the walls around the cabinets, I found where past handymen had plugged up various holes with newspapers. The pizza box suddenly made sense: grab whatever was on hand and plug up a hole.

I found two eras of newspapers. The first was a The New York Times from 2010. Actually, it was the business section from July 25, 2010, based on this article and this article. Things made sense: They must have done some work in 2010 in anticipation of selling the house. Maybe that's why the stove looked so new. It's probably when they painted the tile orange (don't ask; or, more accurately, we'll get to that, I suppose).

Newspaper Found In Kitchen Wall, Kawama, Astoria, Queens

Then there were the other pieces of newspaper shoved into spaces into the kitchen wall — and it corresponded to what I assumed to be the age of the kitchen, at least judging by the tile. These look like they're from the 1960s, and they probably are:

Newspaper Found In Kitchen Wall, Kawama, Astoria, Queens

The ad for the "burlesk" theater seems to be the Mayfair Theater on 235 West 46th Street; it shows up in this issue of New York Magazine from 1968. I think it's a Dean & Deluca now:

Newspaper Found In Kitchen Wall, Kawama, Astoria, Queens

Another clue — these pages look to be real estate classifieds. One notice (on the left) talks about some Mitchell-Lama project, with the requisite honorific shoutouts to those in charge: Governor Rockefeller, Mayor Lindsay and Commissioner Gaynor. Rockefeller was governor from 1959 to 1973. Lindsay was mayor from 1966 to 1973. But James W. Gaynor was New York State Commissioner of Housing and Urban Renewal until 1969. So this is from before 1969. Again, guessing the late 1960s (especially with those ads for mid-1960s Buicks in that second image):

Newspaper Found In Kitchen Wall, Kawama, Astoria, Queens

Newspaper Found In Kitchen Wall, Kawama, Astoria, Queens

Which is to say, the walls hold clues: Destroy the toilet waste line and dig around, you'll find something.

Posted: February 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , , , ,